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Weight, texture, mid-palate, are all words used to describe what I call a wine’s “reward”. Without those attributes a wine is weak, thin, watery, without reward and a virtual wine donut. Of course, a wine donut is what my Winemaker friends and I call a wine without any mid palate – a hole exists where the mid-palate should be…like a donut.
So how do you overcome a wine’s mid-palate inadequacies? Some Winemakers would lean on concentrate to bump up the RS of the wine, others might turn to Gum Arabic or Enological Tannins. All of those could work but are not without their potential collateral damage – too sweet, strange and slimy mouthfeel, bitterness and astringency. Not to mention, these magic Winemaker potions and fairy-dust are really, really expensive.
Oak can be a much better, and more natural option to improving a wine’s “reward” at a reasonable cost, without the collateral damage and without as many wine “touches”. Over a wine’s lifetime, I believe limiting the number of touches, or the number of times a winemaker manipulates the wine will result in a far superior quality of wine. The stage of winemaking also factors into this as the earlier winemaking stages are generally more forgiving. If a Winemaker “front-loads” their touches, specifically with the right type of oak at the right time they could possibly eliminate many unnecessary corrective touches at the back end, resulting in a better, more sound wine.
If a winemaker incorporates oak early and throughout the winemaking process and thinks of crafting a wine like building a house – starting with the foundation first, then the walls, roof, then a nice coat of paint at the end they will be starting early and with the most important step – the foundation. The foundation being the most important as this is what everything else sits on. Think of the foundation as the structure of your wine, the thing that everything else builds upon. Too often when working with Oak Barrel Alternatives, Winemakers think of these products as that last coat of paint, missing out on the full potential of this truly powerful winemaking tool.
It’s this very idea that was the inspiration for Innerstave’s newest toast – “Foundation”. Only available in French Oak, this toast was developed utilizing the oldest, most seasoned wood from our lumber yard in Carneros CA where the cold and rainy winters, hot summer sun, and daily fog rolling in and out across San Pablo Bay have softened and mellowed this oak for over six years. We then toast the oak at a specific temperature, just to the point where any “greenness” in the wood fades and the natural sweetness comes out but before any “toasty” oak characters develop. The result is an oak complement that provides amazing weight, texture and sweetness that dramatically improves a wines structure without any astringency or dryness and without any toasty oak impact. Currently, Foundation toast is available in all formats from the largest Tank Staves and Fan Packs, to Blocks, Cubes, Chips, and Fines.
Foundation acts like an untoasted head of a barrel but without the aggressive tannins that can be associated with untoasted oak and with more sweetness. Foundation at 25%-30% paired with your favorite aromatic toasts provides a much richer, rounder, more complex profile than a single toast alone. How rewarding is that?
-Jason Dodge, Managing Director, Winemaking.